How to Choose & Fit the Best Insoles

After a long day on the trail, it’s natural for your feet to get tired and even a little sore. Sometimes the foot pain and fatigue are a lot more intense than they should be. The good news is that there’s no need to have to suck it up.

Your boots may be made for walking, but your feet might need a little extra help. Especially if you’ve got flat feet or suffer from plantar fasciitis.

Choosing a good set of insoles can give you the heel support, arch support, fatigue and stress reduction that you otherwise wouldn’t get from your hiking shoes.

best insoles for backpacking

When hiking or backpacking it’s especially important that you’ve got good stability and an even distribution of pressure throughout a full range of motion. We’ve had a look at some of the best insoles for hiking and some for special needs too.

There are a lot of excellent options, but we’ve reviewed the best ones for specific cases.

Best Insole for Arch Support

Superfeet Green

Superfeet GREEN Insoles, Professional-Grade High Arch Orthotic Insert for Maximum Support, Unisex, Green, Large/E: 10.5-12 Wmns/9.5-11 Mens

Feet with high or weak arches place an excessive amount of weight on the heel and ball of the foot. Superfeet Green insoles are a popular choice and offer excellent arch support, and some great features to distribute the weight more evenly.

The deep heel cup provides excellent support and shock absorption. The stabilizer cap on the base of the full length insole offers excellent stability and structure by supporting the rear of the foot.

The effect of the contoured sole and rigid foam offers great support, reducing foot pain and pressure on your heels and balls of your feet.

The closed-cell foam doesn’t breathe very well, but it does have an antibacterial odor-control coating. Also, these will only last around 300-500 miles before they’ll need replacing.

The Superfeet green insoles are great if you’re wanting a bit more comfort and odor control without going the full-orthotics route.

  • Excellent support and weight distribution
  • Rigid design offers good stability
  • Anti-bacterial odor control coating
  • Not very durable
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Best Insole for Flat Feet

Samurai Insoles

Samurai Insoles Instant Relief Orthotics for Flat Feet - Plantar Fasciitis Pain Relief Guaranteed, Arch Support Shoe Insert Insoles for Foot and Heel Pain M12

These are the best if your feet tend to be flatter. The inserts mold to your feet with just enough ‘give’ to still keep your foot stable.

The construction is lightweight but offers good durability. Just don’t expect too much padding from the low-profile design if you’re heavy or carry a heavy backpack.

For regular hiking, they do offer great relief and comfort if you’ve got flatter feet or fallen arches.

We liked how accurate the sizing on these are. They fit into most footwear straight out of the box with little or no trimming required.

  • Orthotic full length inserts specifically for flat feet
  • True sizing – fits most shoes without trimming
  • Lightweight, but great durability
  • Profile too thin for relieving pain with heavier pack
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Best Insole for All-Round Comfort

Sof Sole Insoles Men’s Athlete Performance

Sof Sole Insoles Men's Athlete Performance Full-Length Gel Shoe Insert, Men's 9-10.5 Blue

If you’re after all-round comfort with less focus on orthotics, then sof sole are great.

The full length, neutral profile means that they’ll be comfy for most foot types. The gel pads in the front and heel cup areas offer padding but may have a little too much give if you’re carrying a heavy pack.

If you’re not putting too much weight on them, then they feel great. Sof Sole have done a good job with the top fabric which has been treated to keep your feet cool, dry and free from bacteria (odor control).

The volume and profile of the sof sole is low enough to wear over an existing insole, but they’ll probably be more comfortable when used on their own.

  • Profile fits most foot types
  • Gel pads in front and heel offer great cushioning
  • Keeps feet cool and dry
  • Extremely comfortable for a great price!
  • A little too much “give” when carrying a heavy pack
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Best Heavy-Duty Insole

Powerstep Journey Hiker Shoe Insoles

Powerstep Journey Hiker Insoles Athletic Sandal, Camo, Men's 5-5.5, Women's 7-7.5

These are ideal for trekking, especially if you’re carrying a heavy pack.

The firmer support and heel cup give you the rigidity you need on uneven surfaces while still offering extra cushioning for comfort. While they do a good job of stabilizing your feet, they also provide a fair amount of flexibility.

The dual layer closed cell foam construction is light and offers solid durability and long-lasting comfort. The antimicrobial fabric top layer reduces heat and friction, leaving your feet feeling great at the end of a hard day on the trail, and provides good odor control.

We’re not sure what the point of a camo print is, but overall these are great for heavy duty outdoor activities such as hunting.

  • Firm support and heel cradle – stable on uneven surfaces
  • Good cushioning, impact reduction
  • Dual layer cushioning – good durability
  • Antimicrobial top fabric – good moisture and odor control
  • Arch may be a little high for some
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Best Insole for Plantar Fasciitis

Nazaroo Orthotic Insoles

Orthotic Shoe Inserts Performance Shoe Insoles Plantar Fasciitis Arch Insert Orthotics Foot Arch Support for Flat Feet Long-time Standing Heavy Duty (Mens 9-9 1/2 | Womens 11-11 1/2)

The deep heel cup does a good job of keeping your foot aligned while stabilizing and supporting the foot. Both of these relieve the symptoms, while activating your arches to prevent the onset of this painful condition.

We like that the composite fabric breathes well and wick away moisture from your feet. The material is also coated with an anti-odor treatment.

The sizing runs a little big, and they were quite wide so you might need to do a little trimming. Plantar fasciitis can sometimes be tough to relieve fully with an off the shelf solution but these will offer good relief from foot pain to most sufferers.

Custom orthotics can be expensive, so at this price these are worth a try before going the custom route.

  • Deep heel cradle enhances stability
  • Fabric has good moisture and odor control
  • Inserts offer good support and pressure distribution
  • Price
  • Sizing runs a little large
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Best Insole for Shock-Absorption

Timberland Pro Anti-Fatigue Insole

Timberland PRO Men's Anti Fatigue Technology Replacement Insole,Orange,Large/10-11 M US

These insoles are designed to give you maximum impact absorption and energy return with every step. The neutral profile adapts well to most feet.

It offers good, anti-fatigue support. The inverted cone elements minimize impact by absorbing the pressure in the key pressure areas when your foot plants.

The cones compress and then rebound to return the energy to those key areas. The effect of this shock absorbing is that your feet are less fatigued at the end of the day.

These feel great on the trail and are lightweight too.

  • Excellent shock-absorption and energy return
  • Contoured sole offers comfort in key impact and pressure zones
  • Lightweight
  • Neutral arch – will fit most feet
  • Sizing runs a little big – easy to trim though
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Choosing & Using the Best Insoles for Hiking

Types Of Insole

Hiking insoles will typically fall into two categories: comfort and sport.

Comfort insoles are made from foam or gel provide extra comfort under less strenuous conditions. These provide extra cushioning to more “regular” shaped feet.

If you’re looking for more support and stability under taxing conditions then a sports product is the way to go. These are made from rigid material that will have your feet mold the contours.

They offer better stability and are ideal for feet that need more structural support rather than simple cushioning. Or for hikers tackling difficult terrain over many hours.

What type of insoles are normally supplied with hiking boots?

Hiking shoes will generally have one that provides “average” comfort to an “average” foot.

There will be some basic extra cushioning and some of the higher-end products will have some orthotic elements to them. The firmness will vary with most boots tending towards a firmer, more rigid insole.

Sometimes you’ll see shoes referred to as “control”, “cushion” or “neutral” which refers to the amount of structure built in.

If you have no issues with your feet, then a neutral shoe/boot will be fine. If you prefer a bit more shock-absorption you’ll go for the cushioned option, while those designated as “control” will have features to control your gait and correct for things like over-pronation.

Variances in the shape and size of feet mean that a good pair of hiking shoes should get you pretty close to a good fit.

Most hiking boot insoles are removable. You could slip a thin profile one in on top. You could also remove the factory-fitted one the it came with and replace it with a higher volume one that’s just right for you.

What are the Benefits of Insoles?

  • Arch support
    Your arches are essentially the shock absorbers of your feet. If they are weak you’re going to be landing too heavily on your heels and you could end up with Plantar Fasciitis. You want insoles that will support your foot so that you get a more even weight distribution.
  • Comfort
    The additional cushioning provided will make your boots more comfy. Having carefully-designed metatarsal pads, heel cushions and gel pockets in key areas to keep your feet feeling better than the one in your hiking shoes ever could.
  • Increased stability
    Stable feet provide a secure foundation for your entire frame. Hiking boots and shoes will have stability elements but they only work if it fits properly. A good insole will secure your foot inside your hiking boot so that you benefit fully from the stability it was designed to provide.
  • Foot alignment and movement
    One of the main causes of blisters and heel-pain is heel slippage and poor alignment. A good one will have a heel cushion that locks the heel into place and prevents your foot from slipping.Correcting your specific structural alignment issues will translate into happier feet and in your ankles, knees, back, neck and hips.
  • Reduced fatigue
    A day of outdoor activities will inevitably lead to some tiredness but the added shock absorbing and cushioning will reduce the fatigue you would otherwise experience.
  • Reduce symptoms of plantar fasciitis
    This condition is painful and is often caused, and aggravated, by shoes with poor support. A good insole will go beyond simple cushioning and will give you the support you need to land your foot properly.
    This puts less strain on your arches and achilles tendon and can reduce symptoms.
  • Odor control, antibacterial and antimicrobial
    Some of the best products have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. These keep your feet fresher and fungus-free.The odor control means you can take your boots off at the end of the day without having to apologize to your trail mates.

Do I Need Insoles?

If your hiking boots fit comfortably and feel great right out of the box then you may not need them. The ones your boot comes with will wear out eventually, so you may find that your comfort level decreases.

If you find that at the end of every day that your ankles and feet are more sore or fatigued than they should then it might be time to invest in some decent insoles.

Even if your feet are ok but you experience pain in your back, hips or knees then it might be a sign that you have some alignment or support issues.

If you suffer from plantar fasciitis then an insole can reduce the symptoms as well as correct your footfall to prevent them.

If you tend to overpronate, supinate or have other structural misalignment issues with your feet then one with a profile specifically for these characteristics will make for much more comfortable activities.

Insoles are also great for alleviating the problems associated with the following common footwear fit problems:

  • Collapsed or low arches
    If you have low or collapsed arches then an insert that supports your entire foot in key areas will engage your arch muscles and distribute pressure more evenly instead of just on your heels and balls of your feet.
  • Heel Slippage
    Your boots may fit great in the toe, fore and midfoot areas but might have too much space around your heel. This can cause heel slippage and that friction leads to chafing and blisters. An insole can fill up that extra space and keep your heel stabilized.
  • Foot elongation
    Some people find that their feet elongate when standing, especially when carrying extra weight. Some additional support for your feet can prevent this.

My Boots Don’t Fit Well. Will An Insole Fix This?

While it’s rare to find a hiking boot that fits 100% you do want to get it as close as possible. Inserts will not correct an ill-fitting boot.

You need to view the insert as the finishing touch that takes your boot from a pretty close fit to one that feels great. In fact, some of the best hiking boots are designed with additional room because they assume the wearer will want to use an insert to round off the overall fit.

If you have trouble finding a good fit then going for an in-store fitting is a good idea. Speak to a podiatrist or a gear specialist, not just a sales clerk.

Someone with actual experience will be able to help you match a boot and insert to your particular needs.

How to Choose the Best Insoles for Hiking

There’s a good reason why one hiker may find a pair of boots extremely comfortable while another can’t wait to get them off. Our feet are different.

Just saying that you’re a size 9 doesn’t narrow down the size that you need. Feet vary in width. Orthotics vary in structure and composition, depending on the foot they’ve been designed to cater for.

Here are a few general points to look out for as well as factors to consider for more specific needs:

Comfort vs Sport / Support Insoles

Decide on whether you’re looking for general purpose cushioning and impact absorption or if you’re trying to correct for a foot structure or gait issue.

For simple comfort you’ll be opting for a lower profile structure. Within this category, you’ll sometimes see terms like single, double or full strike. This refers to where the majority of the shock absorption is focused. These will have additional foot strike protection either on the heel, heel and forefoot, or entire foot respectively.

The “sport” or support insoles will be more rigid and will have a more pronounced profile with elements to correct or accommodate structural and gait issues.

Profiles And Volume

Inserts come in different profiles and will occupy a varying degree of space in your footwear. The higher the profile, the more variation in thickness you get along your foot.

Low profile insoles will be flatter along its length. Your choice in profile is mainly dictated by the shape of your arches and the support you’re after.

The volume refers to the overall thickness and how much space it will occupy in the shoes or boots you wear.

Profile

  • Low – For feet that require minimal support. If you have very low arches then these would be your best option.
  • Medium – Ideal for most foot types. Offers good support.
  • High – For feet that need extra arch and heel support, or those that tend to overpronate.

Volume

  • Low – Thin for smaller shoes.
  • Medium – For medium hiking shoes and boots. Can be used on top of existing insoles.
  • High – Ideal for use in roomier hiking boots where you remove and replace the existing one.

Arch Support

To be truly effective, instead of just focusing on the arch area, you want an insert that stabilizes your heel and distributes the pressure across the base of your foot.

This stimulates and engages your arch muscles instead of just providing direct support.

Neutral arch design vs extra support

It’s important that the design matches your feet.

Wearing a high-arch insole with flatter feet will be very uncomfortable. Wearing one that offers minimal support, won’t give a high-arched feet the support they need.

The profile will be designed to match the following types:

  • Low arches – Low profile with minimal support. The low profile nature makes them suitable for most general use.
  • Medium arches – Offers medium support. Fits most hiking boots.
  • High arches – Maximum support. Fits in hiking boots with insole removed.

In addition to the above, if you’re a heavy person or you carry a heavy pack then make sure that it has a strong heel, is made from durable material and has cushioning and shock absorption that won’t bottom out under pressure.

Air vs Gel vs Foam Insoles

One of the main functions of the insert is to provide cushioning. The shock absorption is generally achieved by one of the following methods:

Air

These use pressurized air bubbles trapped in the foam. As long as the air bubble remains trapped you get the cushioning you want without the compression that happens over time with simple foam.

Pros:

  • Very comfortable
  • Breathable
  • Long lasting – reduced compression over time
Cons:

  • Expensive

Gel

These encapsulate liquid gel bubbles in the foam. They offer good comfort and offer good durability due to the gel’s resistance to compression. The gel is heavy though so they’re not great if you’re already wearing heavy shoes.

Pros:

  • Great shock absorption
  • Retain shape well – good durability
  • Easy to clean
Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Don’t breathe well

Foam

These are often made from memory foam. They mold to your feet ensuring more contact points between the sole and your feet for optimized energy transfer. These are very comfortable but aren’t as durable as the air or gel options.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Good shock absorption
  • Light

Cons:

  • Poor breathability
  • Not durable, foam compresses and wears out easily

How to fit insoles – What size do I need?

Normally an insole will be specified as falling within a range of sizes. It’s normally better to aim at the upper end of your size.

You can always trim it down a little but if you buy one that’s too small then there’s no fixing that.

Check the profile and how much space it takes up too. If you wear thick socks when hiking you want to be sure there will still be room for these.

Shoe insert fitting tips

  • Try standing on it before slipping it into your shoe. Lift your one leg so that all your weight is applied to the insole, as it will be when you’re walking.
  • Your foot needs to be stable with your heel securely cupped and supported. You also want to be sure that your heel doesn’t extend over the edge of the heel cup.
    If it’s too narrow or if your toes extend beyond the end of the forefoot then consider a larger size.
  • Now remove the insole your shoe came with and insert the new one. With your foot in the laced up boot you need to be stable, and well supported.
  • You also want to evaluate the volume. It should have your foot feel snug but not too tight.

How to trim Superfeet Insoles

Your shoe will come with a factory fitted insole. If you remove it, you now have a perfect template to use to trim your new one.

  • Position the factory one over your new one and line up the heel, forefoot and edges. Trace around it and then cut along the outline.
  • Support the front of your new insert as you slip it in so that the toe doesn’t curl up.
  • Make sure there is a small amount of wiggle room for it. You may need to trim a little bit at a time until there’s just a little wiggle room.

Remember, you can always cut it smaller but there’s no cutting it bigger, so take your time.

Care tips

Eventually, even the best will lose their effectiveness. How long they last depends on the quality and how many miles you put on them.

The material will eventually become compressed to the point where it no longer gives you the support it once did. Thinner ones will reach this point quicker than thicker ones will. There are some things you can do to extend the life on your insoles though.

  • Take them out and air them regularly
  • Wash them by hand using a mild detergent
  • Check periodically for wear to see if they need to be replaced

They aren’t going to last forever so be prepared to replace them when they show signs of wear. Spending a few dollars to save yourself sore feet on a long hike is worth it.

Buying a set of the best insoles for hiking is probably the easiest way to make a dramatic difference to how good your feet feel at the end of the day.

Even if you have the best boots and perfect feet, good padding and shock absorption will leave your feet feeling great after crushing those miles.

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